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Air New Zealand's 'SkyCouch' allows couples room to cuddle

Nicknamed 'cuddle class' by some, the design converts three seats into a 'couch' by retracting the armrests and raising the footrests.

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DNA Web Team

Updated: Dec 23, 2010, 10:20 PM IST

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In an era of uncomfortable, cramped economy-class seats, Air New Zealand has introduced a revolutionary 'SkyCouch' design which will enable couples to have room to cuddle.

The airline will take delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in Seattle, Washington, the first to be kitted out with the radical economy-class seat design.

Nicknamed 'cuddle class' by some, the design converts three seats into a 'couch' by retracting the armrests and raising the footrests.

Two adults can purchase a third seat at half-price, creating a space they can lie down in.

Air New Zealand group general manager Ed Sims said the majority of fliers — economy-class passengers — had been ignored by most other airlines as they focus on the lucrative business and first-class markets.

"The idea began in 2006 when chief executive officer (CEO) Rob Fyfe said he wanted us to be the first airline to allow economy passengers to sleep, but he wanted to do it without giving an extra inch of legroom," The Age quoted Sims as saying.

While the 'cuddle-class' nickname has caught on, Sims says the initial aim for the seat is families with young children. The airline is not referring to the Skycouch as a bed, and Sims admits it will not replace the lie-flat bed experience for which business-class travellers pay a premium.

"On a Sunday afternoon you might have a two or three hours' nap on the sofa at home — this is meant to be that sort of experience," he said.

"It's not going to give you eight or nine hours' unbroken sleep — if you want that then the choice is to trade up to business class," he stated.

CEO Fyfe announced recently that the airline was hopeful of selling the Skycouch design to other carriers, but Sims said other airlines were likely to wait and see how the concept performs for Air New Zealand before making enquiries.

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